Optimal life-history strategy differs between philopatric and dispersing individuals in a metapopulation

Am Nat. 2014 Mar;183(3):384-93. doi: 10.1086/675064. Epub 2014 Jan 15.


Abundant empirical evidence for dispersal syndromes contrasts with the rarity of theoretical predictions about the evolution of life-history divergence between dispersing and philopatric individuals. We use an evolutionary model to predict optimal differences in age-specific reproductive effort between dispersing and philopatric individuals inhabiting the same metapopulation. In our model, only young individuals disperse, and their lifelong reproductive decisions are potentially affected by this initial event. Juvenile survival declines as density of adults and other juveniles increases. We assume a trade-off between reproduction and survival, so that different patterns of age-specific reproductive effort lead to different patterns of aging. We find that young immigrant mothers should allocate more resources to reproduction than young philopatric mothers, but these life-history differences vanish as immigrant and philopatric individuals get older. However, whether the higher early reproductive effort of immigrants results in higher fecundity depends on the postimmigration cost on fecundity. Dispersing individuals have consequently a shorter life span. Ultimately, these life-history differences are due to the fact that young dispersing individuals most often live in recently founded populations, where competition is relaxed and juvenile survival higher, favoring larger investment in offspring production at the expense of survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Distribution*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Butterflies / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Population Dynamics
  • Reproduction